The legacy of a cost-effective launchpad for future racing stars

After 13 years on the BTCC support bill, the Ginetta GT4 Supercup was axed as a standalone series at the end of this season. Here, some of its major players reflect on the championship’s key moments

The legacy of a cost-effective launchpad for future racing stars

The Brands Hatch British Touring Car finals meeting is often a time for reflection. Among the excitement and tension of the title deciders, many are also looking back over the season and plenty of drivers will be preparing to bid farewell to teams or series.

But this year’s curtain-closer truly was the end of an era as it marked Ginetta’s final appearance on the BTCC bill. While Ginetta Junior will continue in its new home alongside British GT next year, it signalled the end of the road for the GT4 Supercup as the series is now being scrapped. It concluded with Aston Millar blasting his V8-powered G56 to the final victory, becoming the 58th different winner from 365 races over a 14-year period that featured three models of Yorkshire sportscar.

The series was originally known as the Ginetta G50 Cup when it started in 2008 and featured at British GT meetings, before teaming up with the BTCC the following year. The G55 was introduced for 2011 – also when the Supercup moniker was adopted – and then the G56 made an appearance for this season’s final campaign.

Out of those 58 winners, scores have gone on to enjoy success in the BTCC or GT contests and it was perhaps fitting that at the GT4 Supercup’s final weekend, one of its most notable alumni, Tom Ingram, claimed the BTCC crown. Ingram’s fellow BTCC frontrunners Jake Hill and Adam Morgan – who won the 2011 title and received a funded season in the BTCC the following year – were among those to learn their trade in the series, while 2020 Porsche Carrera Cup GB dominator Harry King and 2021 British GT4 title winner Will Burns are other notable graduates.

But one person who perhaps has a greater connection to the GT4 Supercup than any other is Nathan Freke. The Century Motorsport boss began competing in the G50 Cup in 2009, claiming that year’s title, and has remained involved ever since, his squad being a constant presence. However, it is a very different team now to the one Freke drove for in 2009, when he admits to having a tricky introduction to the championship.

“I won Formula Ford in 2006 and had a year out in 2007 and had a customer in karts who said for 2008 they would buy a Porsche Carrera Cup car for me to race in,” recalls Freke. “At that time, I was still pretty dialled into single-seaters and had my eye on trying to go to Indy Pro.

Have a go hero: The nightmare US foray of a top GT team boss

“I went to America and it was a disaster. So I came back cap in hand and asked if that offer was still available and he said no. However, he said he would put £50,000 towards a car if we wanted to find something. We looked around and Ginetta was going to get on the touring car package and the car was £47k and decided that was the right way to go. We hadn’t even run a GT car before, up until 2008 we were still running karts.

Freke made a superb return to racing in the UK and dominated the 2009 G50 season

Freke made a superb return to racing in the UK and dominated the 2009 G50 season

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“We turned up at the first round completely untested – we picked the car up, and had done the media day, and that was it. I was driver and engineer and a couple of my friends were mechanics.”

Yet Freke was able to clinch a hat-trick of podiums at the Brands Hatch opener, despite his limited preparation. He struggled at Thruxton having not tested beforehand, but from there on he won 15 of the remaining 22 races to secure a dominant title win.

“My season in 2009 was just a fairytale,” says Freke. “If someone had said to me at the start of the year you will be champion and dominate the field, I would’ve just laughed at them.”

"It was having a series that’s organised well and run well and the rules and regulations are abided by and enforced. The hospitality got better every year and they always seemed to have some fast drivers in each of their classes" Colin White

The success also catapulted the fledging Century operation into the limelight.

“After we won the title, people were queueing at the door for us to run them in Ginettas,” he says. “I bought a truck and all the equipment and we ran four cars in 2010 – it just snowballed.”

That initial Ginetta foray marked the start of a long-standing and successful relationship between Century and the GT4 Supercup, with Tom Oliphant (2015) and James Kellett (2022) also claiming overall titles with the team. Unsurprisingly, it secured the most victories of any outfit to compete in the series, even with some fallow periods along the way.

But Freke was not the only notable Ginetta driver to begin their long association with the series back in 2009. National racing stalwart Colin White also joined the grid for the first time that year and went on to make a total of 297 appearances across the G50, G55 and G56 eras.

“I was looking for something in England that was a sensible car to buy and race,” recalls White of entering Ginetta competition. “I went to Thruxton and that was when the SEATs were just finishing [the Cupra championship was axed in 2008] and they said there’s a new car coming with the Ginetta and it’s a spaceframe – the same as the ASCAR and hot rods I’d been racing all my life.”

Category veteran White made his series debut in 2009

Category veteran White made his series debut in 2009

Photo by: Motorsport Images

This immediately grabbed White’s attention and retained his interest across the next 13 years, during which he claimed four class crowns. There were plenty of reasons White kept coming back for more, not least the TV coverage racing on the BTCC package brought for his CWS business and the satisfaction he got from his small, independent team taking on larger operations.

“It was having a series that’s organised well and run well and the rules and regulations are abided by and enforced,” he adds. “The hospitality got better every year and they always seemed to have some fast drivers in each of their classes.”

While White was often found in the Pro-Am/Am divisions, he could still mix it with the frontrunners and achieved five overall podiums, which he describes as his most memorable moments – the most recent coming at Knockhill this year.

Clearly, joining the TOCA bill for 2009 was a key moment in the category’s history as a third long-standing figure also competed for the first time that year. Carl Breeze had already competed in the BTCC and the SEAT Cupra championship before and, seeking to remain on the TOCA package, he opted to race a G50. He was third in the standings that year, and never finished outside the top three in the points over the next six seasons, including winning the title in 2012 and securing the most wins of any driver in the series with 45.

“That was a great championship – there was always a good level of competition,” Breeze reflects. “Every year there was some young up and coming champion stepping up from Ginetta Junior.”

Unsurprisingly, he picks out his title-winning year as his highlight – not least because he had a tricky start to the season struggling for budget with the Tollbar Racing squad in an older, loaned car, while Tom Sharp was winning the first five contests.

“After two rounds, I changed teams and went to Total Control Racing and changed car,” remembers Breeze. “After three rounds, we were about 100 points off Tom Sharp and it looked like it was going to be a tall order to win the championship.”

But, from the remaining 18 races, Breeze only once finished off the podium.

Breeze has the record for the most wins in the category, with 45, including five in his 2012 title-winning season

Breeze has the record for the most wins in the category, with 45, including five in his 2012 title-winning season

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“We got to Brands Hatch and, on the Saturday, Tom had a driveshaft failure and didn’t finish and he started at the back of the grid for race two – I remember him coming through like a train!” Breeze continues. “Looking back, I drove the race of my life. I just defended the inside and he was pushing me down the straights. I don’t know how I held him off! In the last race, I needed to finish in the top six to win and I was third.

“It felt like payback for the other seasons where we were so close – I didn’t want to go down in the record books as the bridesmaid with the most wins and never winning the championship!”

One of the drivers who managed to get the better of Breeze was Ingram, during a successful 2013 season that followed him winning the Junior and second-tier G50 Cup titles in previous years.

“It was a great series to be a part of because it allowed me to do what I wanted to do,” he says. “I wanted to stay on the TOCA package and I wanted to go off and race in touring cars and it enabled me to do that. Through that chance to stay on the TOCA package, I had the opportunity with Jason Plato and the KX Akademy.”

"It teaches you a lot in a single-make series – that doesn’t matter if you’re coming from Clios or Minis – single-make championships are really what forces you to find the last bit and I think that’s an important factor" Tom Ingram

Ingram highlights how Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson was “massively helpful” in helping him secure a last-minute deal to join the grid in 2011.

“Without Lawrence’s support, I wouldn’t have been able to take that step towards winning the BTCC championship this year,” he adds.

Even though the G55 bears little resemblance to the Hyundai i30 N he drives now, Ingram still says his time in the series was very useful.

Top 10: Ranking the best BTCC drivers of 2022

“It teaches you a lot in a single-make series – that doesn’t matter if you’re coming from Clios or Minis – single-make championships are really what forces you to find the last bit and I think that’s an important factor,” he explains. “It was a bloody tough championship – there were some fast guys in it.”

Ingram used his 2013 title as a springboard to racing in the BTCC

Ingram used his 2013 title as a springboard to racing in the BTCC

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Despite the standard of the competition, Ingram was still able to achieve 11 wins in that title-winning season. But Kellett went two better this year as he produced a dominant display having achieved his long-held dream to race in the series.

“It’s a great championship and it’s sad to see it go,” he says. “It’s been my dream to race in it since I was 14 years old when I first did Ginetta Junior – the GT4 Supercup drivers were the drivers I looked up to. It means a lot to me just to race in the championship.”

The next generation of Junior graduates will not have such an opportunity following September’s announcement that the GT4 Supercup would be discontinued. It was fitting that White should wave the chequered flag at the end of the second race on the final Brands Hatch weekend, while still recovering from injuries sustained in a crash at Thruxton in August, and describes feeling “privileged to do such a thing”.

But Freke perhaps sums up the feeling over the series’ demise best, saying “let’s smile that it happened rather than be sad it’s stopping”. It may not have had the most competitive of grids in recent times, but there is no disputing the impact the Ginetta GT4 Supercup had on national motorsport for over a decade. The ongoing success of Ingram and co is testament to that.

Kellett dominated the final GT4 Supercup in 2022, breaking Ingram's record for wins in a season

Kellett dominated the final GT4 Supercup in 2022, breaking Ingram's record for wins in a season

Photo by: Motorsport Images

shares
comments
From the GB3 title to the fight for an F1 test
Previous article

From the GB3 title to the fight for an F1 test

Next article

Why club racing entry numbers matter

Why club racing entry numbers matter
How Lotus emerged as a period Goodwood force Plus

How Lotus emerged as a period Goodwood force

Colin Chapman’s marque was the most successful across Goodwood’s 71 contemporary era Members’ Meetings, from 1949 to 1966. Many of the future Formula 1 pacesetter's finest creations will be in action during this weekend's 2022 event, attempting to re-live an era when period Lotus was gaining unstoppable momentum

Historics
Apr 8, 2022
How to get the best out of amateur racers Plus

How to get the best out of amateur racers

Pro-Am GT racing is booming. But how should drivers approach working with an amateur? Autosport sought out a panel of experts to explain the pitfalls amateur drivers should avoid and how professionals can help them to achieve their goals

GT
Apr 3, 2022
How Radical revamped its record-breaking flagship model Plus

How Radical revamped its record-breaking flagship model

Just over a year ago, Autosport sampled Radical’s newest offering: the SR10. Now upgraded, it’s clear to see why it’s become the manufacturer’s fastest-selling model

Radical
Jan 16, 2022
The second-generation Can-Am racers that took the UK by storm Plus

The second-generation Can-Am racers that took the UK by storm

When Thundersports was introduced in 1983, few could have predicted that it would bring an army of heavy metal from the United States to British circuits. The awe-inspiring former Can-Am racers became a new domestic flagship category that captivated spectators and drivers alike

National
Jan 14, 2022
The father and son team taking GT racing by storm Plus

The father and son team taking GT racing by storm

GT Cup title winners Richard and Sam Neary emerged as a race-winning force in British GT in 2021. The father-and-son pairing have done it the hard way with their family team – and 19-year-old Sam is only just getting started on a career he hopes will lead to factory opportunities in the near future

National
Jan 9, 2022
Track testing an outgoing stalwart of British motorsport Plus

Track testing an outgoing stalwart of British motorsport

The current GB3 Championship car is due to be replaced next season. Autosport got behind the wheel to discover why it's been a popular machine for drivers making their way up the junior single-seater ladder

National
Dec 15, 2021
Inside the lightweight Czech sportscar making its mark on the UK Plus

Inside the lightweight Czech sportscar making its mark on the UK

Ahead of Praga running its own standalone series in partnership with Britcar, Autosport got behind the wheel of the Czech company’s R1 at Donington – and was left very impressed

National
Dec 5, 2021
How rocket O'Sullivan banished painful memories with GB3 glory Plus

How rocket O'Sullivan banished painful memories with GB3 glory

After missing out on the 2020 British F4 title in astonishing fashion, Zak O'Sullivan was determined to earn his first car racing title stepping up to the BRDC British F3 championship. While the series underwent a mid-year name change to GB3, the Carlin driver was imperious throughout and deservedly claimed the title in his rookie year

National
Dec 1, 2021